Sinta Ebersohn is a child of divorce, a mother, a step-mother, a second-wife and a divorced co-parent. It is from these experiences that she founded of Fair Divorce, an initiative that serves to address the many issues relating to divorce and separation.
In her upcoming book, 21 Fair Divorce Lessons, the divorce mentor provides insight into the significant elements that she says make up a fair separation and divorce.
She provided insight into five of these elements in some detail below:
Choose the right process
Litigation is an acrimonious process by nature. Divorce is instigated with a formal document (summons) by accusing your spouse of wrong-doing and challenging them to either give you what you demand or defend themselves in a public court of law.
“This summons is usually served on your spouse during office hours, which tends to be very inconvenient, quite humiliating and infuriating at times,” Sinta says.
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Most recipients feel compelled to defend themselves and the only appropriate response to such a summons, is litigation. This sets the stage for a long, expensive legal battle.
Mediation, on the other hand, is a fair process, where both you and your spouse will have ample opportunity to state your opinions, share your feelings and put all your needs on the table.
The process of determining the position and needs of every family member affected by the divorce, is guided by an unbiased, impartial person who is trained to resolve conflict.
Thus you set the stage for a short, affordable negotiation and settlement agreement.
Safeguard the Children
Sinta explains that couples are overwhelmed by all sorts of emotions when their relationships break down, which determines their behaviour. “Some feel the need to justify their choices, blame someone or prove their innocence and the closest people to witness that are children, who have no or limited understanding of adult matters,” she says.
It is unfair and abusive to drag children into the centre of an adult dispute.
Children have to be told about a divorce, in an age appropriate manner and the only details they need to know, are around the direct impact that the separation and pending divorce will have on their day to day lives.
“Our children must be assured of our best intentions for all members of the family and how their routines, living arrangements, schools, contact with both parents and practicalities are going to work,” Sinta explains.
Many parties to a divorce hide their assets to punish the other party by not giving them their fair share of the combined estate.
“Some divorcees go to great lengths to pretend that they cannot afford to support their families, leaving one parent to bear the responsibilities of raising a family alone. Those who choose to defraud, might either be blissfully ignorant of the devastating effects on their family, or intent on revenge,” Sinta told us.
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“Even though your married relationship with your ex is terminated by divorce, they are still the other parent of your children and therefore, still part of your family.”
Being a single parent in a household is so demanding, that they will not only need the same support that you’ve always offered them, but more and in new ways. Providing financially for the basic needs of your family is the foundation for resilience and growth into a healthy new family dynamic.
“The first advice most attorneys will give you when starting a divorce process, will be to NOT talk to your spouse, but rather refer him/her to your attorney. The moment you do that, you hand over total control of your divorce process,” Sinta warns, “to two legal eagles who have a vested interest in keeping you and your spouse at odds with each other.”
The more things you misunderstand and fight about, the more work you give them to do and the longer it takes to reach an agreement.
“If you think about it clearly for a moment, you’ll agree with me that at the end of the day, both of you just want to get through your divorce and live happily ever after. Right?” She adds “If you have children, you’ll also agree with me that both of you ultimately want the best outcome for your kids. So you have the same goal.”
“When in all history of mankind have we ever resolved disagreements and reached sensible conclusions amicably, without talking to each other, thinking it over, talking some more, thinking deeper and talking again until we compromise?”
Relationships end for good reasons, which leave us with life-lessons to learn and areas in which to grow, so that we can do better next time. During a divorce, we establish a new relationship with our exes, being the interaction between us as we negotiate a settlement and/or parenting plan.
Once that is all done and dusted, we re-establish another relationship, be it distant with very little or no contact or a co-parenting team for our children.
“When we disregard those lessons, we might very well enter into a new relationship and make the same mistakes or worse,” Sinta says. “It might be easy for some to interpret and integrate their lessons but some of us might choose to seek professional guidance and some might be in dire need of proper support during this trying period of their lives.”
Further elements that are explored in her book 21 Fair Divorce Lessons, which is set to be released soon. Visit fairdivorce.co.za to find out more.
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